So Tommy decided to start his journey right away, but not without telling his mother first.
If it’s only for their burrow, he wouldn’t even bother saying goodbye. The last time someone set out on a journey, t’was Marion the Hunter’s quest to find the golden tadpole, the whole anuran burrow feasted on grubs and worms all night and drank slug juices with high hopes of glory and honor, only to have Marion’s body, or what was left of it, thrown in the middle of the square lily before sunset the next day. It’s the last thing he needed if he wants to keep his journey’s pressures to a minimum. He even has this superstitious belief that Marion died so early because of the feast, built on the logic that they were counting their tadpoles before they are hatched.
But he has to say goodbye to Mama Boogie. No questions at that.
A scaredy-toad is one thing you can’t consider Tommy. Most of his brothers would not approach Mama Boogie unless called. Once when he was but a puny toad, he even remembered a two-legged giant run at the sight of his beloved Mama. But Tommy was determined.
“Mama,” blurted Tommy, “Ineedtosetoutonajourneytobecomeanartist.”
That in itself is already an achievement. It seems like the whole swamp has gone silent when Mama Boogie turned to face Tommy. Tommy is huge for a toad, yes, but Mama Boogie is a monster. She is five times as big as an average man’s fist. Her eyes are as big as ox balls. And they seem to can’t wait to push their way out of those sockets. With those beautiful eyes, he gave Tommy an excruciatingly blank look. Like she’s almost bored.
Until finally she croaked, “I always thought you would be different among my tadpoles. You’re the one who always tried to get your feet out of the line. Especially when you got that hat. Now I know I am right. ”
Tommy just laughed, if you can even call it that with all its shakiness. “I knew that’s what you would say. But I’ve made up my mind, Ma. And I will start as soon as the sun ris-“
At that moment, the lily Tommy was settled on was upturned by a toad half his size, but with remarkably bigger eyes.
“Let me go with you, brother!”
It’s his little brother, Billy. From the time he was a wee tadpole he already follows Tommy wherever he seems to go. And it isn’t about to change. Especially now.
“Heh! No kidding,” answered Mama Boogie with a roll of those titan eyes.
But Tommy was just grinning. “Of course you can go with me, brah! But let me tell you, I am not really sure where I’m going yet.”
“You said you want to be an artist?” replied Billy.
“Then you should follow the tortoise, idiot!” Billy said with a chortle-croak.
Clearly, what Billy lack in size, he sure makes up with his wits and ingenuity. If there was an anuran more sly than Billy in their burrow, Tommy was yet to see it.
“But of course, the symbol of creative potential. A tortoise!” said Tommy with an even bigger grin.
“Brah, just what would you do without me?” said Billy.
“If you want to follow the one tortoise roaming around these bogs then you better start at midnight. My warts could predict the time just by watching that old tortoise pass by”, Mama Boogie added, “And when you are an artist, heck, don’t forget what your Mama looks like. And make sure your brother does not stray too often. If my eyes could get any bigger from keeping to look out for his whereabouts, why, they would…”, she croaked as she turns her back to both of them, and made a small hop towards the rest of the burrow.
For Tommy and Billy, that’s the same as saying “I love you, sons. And good luck with your journey.”
It was Tommy who broke it by saying, “We should keep an eye for that tortoise, then, brah”. So they started for the old log at the edge of the woods which is the perfect lookout post if the tortoise chooses to use his usual route for the night. Just as they arrived at the place, Tootsie the Owl was already settled on top of the log’s visible branches.
“Hey ugly, someone told me you want to be an artist.” It was not a question, merely a statement of fact. For not unlike the two-legged giants’ community, the anuran burrow hungers for gossip.
“Yeah, and when I am you’d be the first one I’ll tell, blabberbeak”.
“Ah, that would be an honor. An ugly artist telling a wise owl of his first success. Lovely”, Tootsie hooted with delight.
“Hey Tootsie, I just remembered, someone told me the story behind your whopping eyes. He said it got that big because Slater almost squeezed it out of your sockets one time you make a fool of yourself by bragging too loudly in his part of the woods. Ah, genius I must say. You even managed to get away with one good wing. Genius.” replied Billy.
Billy knows this story is true. Being friends with all of the burrow’s inhabitants has its advantages. One that could keep a braggart owl amazingly silent.
“Brah, come here, see that?” Tommy said with obvious excitement while pointing to a staggering tortoise making its path towards the woods. “We should wait until he gets inside before we follow him.”
Just as they began to hop towards the woods, Tootsie said with a shade of cunning, “If only you’ve been a bit friendlier, I would’ve told you something you’d give all your warts to have. But too late, too late. So long then, ugly and his even uglier brother. May the Almighties have their mercy on you, “ as she flew rather awkwardly to a nearby tree.
Leaving Tommy and his brother baffled for a moment, before they get on their pursuit of the tortoise.
Frog image courtesy of Google Images